What do British Muslims Really Think?

british muslims surveyChannel 4 recently aired a programme that was designed to reflect the results of a comprehensive survey that they commissioned, and as might be expected, there have been complaints. It is perhaps inevitable because some are permanently ready to be offended if a specific belief garners any form of criticism, and labels are soon rapidly deployed that suggest some sort of racism is in play.

The Survey

Let’s step back first and take a peek at the actual survey itself and what it discovered.

What I’m doing here is completely ignoring Channel 4 and any associated media stories and instead I am focusing on what the raw survey results actually tell us.

You can find the full survey here. (or to be a tad more precise, the actual PDF is here, and their methodology is documented here)

The survey consists of the answers provided via face-to-face at-home interviews conducted with a representative sample of 1,000 Muslims across the UK between 25 April and 31 May 2015.

How did they pick people?

  • Randomly … anybody who self-identified as “Muslim” was accepted. We have no idea what specific variation of Islam that any specific individual represents.
  • They did this by going to areas where at least 1 in 5 of the residents are Muslim hence they had a increased chance of finding people to interview.

What did they learn?

What following below has been distilled directly from the full survey.

As a citizen of the UK

  • Of those that they interviewed, 44% were born in the UK and 56% were not.
  • Most, roughly about 90% felt very strongly that they belonged to Britain
  • When it comes to access to public services, here are the percentages of how they felt that being Muslim was when compared to the experience of others accessing those same services … (NHS 90% no different, Police & Courts 17% felt they would be worse off than others) (Q3)
  • 73% felt that harassment for being Muslim was not a problem, and 22% felt it was a big problem.
  • Thinking about a bias against Muslims, 31% felt it was no different than 5 years ago and 40% felt it was worse
  • 82% had never personally experienced any harassment
  • Of those who did experience harassment, 78% of them reported that it was verbal

Representation of views

  • About 51% felt that the Muslim council of Britain did not represent their views
  • About 72% felt that their local mosque did
  • Only about 40% felt that their local councillor or MP did


  • As many as 22% have not mixed socially with non-Muslim in their home, but outside their home that drops to 3%
  • Just over half felt that complete integration was ideal – but … 29% would like separate Islamic schools and laws, and 17% wanted a completely separate Islamic life as far as was possible.


  • A school should have strong Muslim values – 45%
  • Boys and Girls should be taught separately – 33%
  • Is it OK for a teacher to be gay? – 28% yes – 35% strongly felt no
  • Girls should have the right to wear the Niqab – 64%


  • Society treats women with respect – 77%
  • Muslim women are treated with more respect in Muslim countries – 43%
  • Muslim men and women should be able to select their own partners in marriage – 82%
  • It is acceptable for Muslim men to have more than one wife – 31%
  • Wives should always obey their husbands – 39%

Ethics (Q13)

  • The UK is a country of bad moral behaviour – only 28% agree
  • 52% felt that being gay should not be permitted
  • 56% felt that gay marriage should not be permitted

Sharia Law (Q14)

  • 23% support it as an alternative to British Law
  • 43% would oppose it

[Side Note: It has been my personal observation that there is no consensus on what the term ‘Sharia’ means, and in reality it means rather a lot of quite different things that is determined by the specific type of Islam that is embraced, and remember just like Christianity, then is a vast diversity of belief]

Being Religious (Q15)

  • 94% felt that they could practise their religious freely
  • 4% felt that they could not

Britain (Q16)

  • 88% felt that the UK was a good place to live
  • 3% felt it was bad

Holocaust (Q20)

  • Only 1% bought into any Holocaust denial theory

Terrorism (Q22)

  • 4% felt that terrorism was an appropriate response

Violence (Q23)

  • 18% would support violence against anybody who mocked Mohammed
  • 5% would support stoning for adultery

Charlie Hebdo (Q24)

  • 62% were surprised by the attack
  • 29% were not surprised by the attack

Should anybody have the right to publish pictures of Mohammed (Q25)

  • 78% – No

Islamic State

  • 67% are opposed to the formation of an Islamic State
  • 73% are specifically opposed to ISIS

Encouraged towards violence (Q35)

  • 80% report that there have never seen anybody attempt to encourage this

Should Muslims do more to combat extremism? (Q39)

  • 47% – Yes

Sources of information on current affairs (Q41)

  • 81% – TV
  • 37% – Social websites

Attending a Mosque (Q46)

  • 22% do not go to a Mosque

A Few Final Thoughts

I’ll leave a few generic observations.

People should be free to believe whatever they wish and to dress however they please, and just as you would object to somebody telling you what to think or how to dress, so also would anybody else, and that includes this community.

If you examined any slice of society then you would find disturbing aspects, things that you do not agree with. Yes, it is rather disturbing that as many as 52% felt that being gay should not be permitted, and if empowered to do so then I suspect they would strive to ban it, and yes these same people would strongly object to anybody who attempted to interfere in their lives to the same degree – but bad ideas do also need to be robustly challenged.

In general it is actually quite a good reflection overall, and clearly the vast majority are not, as some might have you believe, complete lunatics, but are in fact no different than anybody else is, in that they wish no real harm to anybody, and are as horrified by ISIS as you are, and yes they do have extremists lurking amongst them who seek to do real harm, but so also do other factions of society (for example the racism that is endemic within the far right of politics), and so yes we do need to come to terms with that and not isolate them all because of that, but rather stand with them in unity against such extremism just as we would for any other strata of society.

One big surprise – It is rather interesting that of those surveyed, 1 out of every 5 is not actually religious at all and are simply cultural Muslims. (Q46) so when you think of a Muslim community, do not think about individuals who are fanatically religious, because it turns out that 20% are not religious at all, they are instead cultural. Additionally, do not think about them as a group that is represented by the Muslim council of Britain because once again … big surprise … the majority (51%) reject the very idea that the council represents them or their specific views. As for where they feel they belong, 90% of them felt that the UK was home – this is not about “them” and instead they are part of us, part of our story, and without them we are incomplete.

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